Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Franz Wright

This one goes out to James Smith.

I came upon Dr. Smith's wonderful post on "Poetry and the End of Theology" this week -- remarkable in its own right -- and in his concluding section, he mentioned Franz Wright. I had never heard of Wright, so I went and read his Wikipedia page, which sounded interesting enough, and I was lead from there to this interview he did with NPR more than six years ago about his then recent Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Only eight minutes, I decided to give it a listen.

The interview opens with Wright reading his poem "Year One," and in the middle of the interview he reads "One Heart," both of which are below. Words don't come easy describing my reaction to these poems. The first left my mouth open, and tears filled my eyes by the end of the second. (I react bodily to great music, film, art, prose, and poetry; but I find it difficult to find creative ways to re-state such similar reactions. My body goes taut, my eyes glaze over, my mouth saunters open. What else is there to say, except that all of me gets caught up into the beauty of the thing!) I immediately found Wright's collections at Emory's library, and now have a stack of eight of his books on our bedroom floor.

What a joy to make a new discovery! This may be the sole justifying reason why I read blogs, and indeed, why I have this series of poetry at all.

Thanks again to Dr. Smith. Perhaps another new reader will now be made from here as well.

- - - - - - -

Year One

I was still standing
on a northern corner.

Moonlit winter clouds the color of the desperation of wolves.

of Your existence? There is nothing

- - -

One Heart
It is late afternoon and I have just returned from
the longer version of my walk nobody knows
about. For the first time in nearly a month, and
everything changed. It is the end of March, once
more I have lived. This morning a young woman
described what it’s like shooting coke with a baby
in your arms. The astonishing windy and altering light
and clouds and water were, at certain moments,

There is only one heart in my body, have mercy
on me.

The brown leaves buried all winter creatureless feet
running over dead grass beginning to green, the first scent-
less violet here and there, returned, the first star noticed all
at once as one stands staring into the black water.

Thank You for letting me live for a little as one of the
sane; thank You for letting me know what this is
like. Thank You for letting me look at your frightening
blue sky without fear, and your terrible world without
terror, and your loveless psychotic and hopelessly
with this love


  1. I came across Wright in September, like you, Brad, on a blog. I immediately ordered the recent collection God's Silence (2006). Some of Wright's stuff makes R.S. Thomas look happy-clappy, but there is treasure in them barren fields. One of the epigraphs of God's Silence is now lodged in my heart.

    When Moses conversed with God, he asked, "Lord, where shall I seek You?"
    God answered, "Among the brokenhearted."
    Moses continued, "But, Lord, no heart could be more despairing than mine."
    And God replied, "Then I am where you are."

    -- Abu L Fayd Al-Misri

  2. So glad you've discovered Wright, Brad. His poetry lives close to our hearts. "Walking to Martha's Vineyard" is one of those collections we have given as gifts to all of our poetry-loving friends. We heard Mary Karr read Wright's "The Only Animal" in Michigan a few years ago...and, like you, I was literally brought to tears.

  3. well. unlike kim and andrew, i have not heard of wright until now - perhaps as a result of being wrapped up in wendell berry's stuff? haha.

    but nonetheless, thanks so much for sharing! i am definitely on my way to unearthing so much of wright's stuff for myself.

    @andrew - walking to martha's vineyard - definitely on my next to-get list, thanks!